Kevin Begley talks issues while Torissi launches personal attacks
By: Tom Duggan – October, 2010
A debate was held between State Rep. Dave Torissi and his Republican challenger Kevin Begley at the Frost School in Lawrence last month. The debate was sponsored by the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Association.
State Rep. Dave Torissi: “Most people know me, I’ve been serving Lawrence and North Andover for 12 years now. I love the job. I am passionate every single day. I get up, I love to go to work every day and represent your needs and ideas. I’d like you to know my family background. Sixty-four years in Lawrence. Proud of our reputation in the city. Also, our place in North Andover. I’m very proud to serve my friend Barry Finegold over the last few years. Some of the comments that were made by the last speaker, (Jamison Tomasek) I didn’t care for and I wish he was here to defend himself and he has done a good job for this city.
I love the job I do, I really do. It makes me feel good about some of the things we’ve accomplished over the last 12 years and sometimes people forget that because the last couple of years have been difficult. We’ve been going through an economic recession that we haven’t seen since The Great Depression. It’s been very difficult. We’ve had huge budget cuts on the state level and, obviously, we’ve had budget cuts at the city level, too. I’m not proud of that. I’m not happy about that. I know the city councilors that I work with every single day aren’t happy about the budget cuts. But, those are the things you have to deal with. We are not the Federal Government. We don’t get to print money to make things work. So, we are doing our best every day. I know we always don’t agree all of the time, but there are many things we do agree upon. I know that by having a business on the NH border that it is important that we keep the city sales tax at 5%. I was very happy to vote against an increase in sales tax, because I do know, first hand, that business goes over the border. I also, voted against the alcohol tax, the new tax on beer, wine and liquor. I know a lot of our small package stores are suffering because of that. I think I know that it is difficult to make things work in MA sometimes. I just hope I can have your vote on November 2nd. Thank you very much.”
[Editors Note: While Torissi did vote against the budget amendments to raise the sales tax and the alcohol tax, those tax amendments passed anyway and Torissi then voted for the entire budget with those tax hikes in it.]
Kevin Begley: “Good morning, my name is Kevin Begley and I’m here with my wife, Celeste. I’d like to thank you for having us and I’d also like to thank the people that supported us in the primary. I was born on Andover Street (Lawrence), we moved to Howe Road. In 3rd grade, we moved to the corner of Brookfield and Chester St. and that’s where I grew up. I graduated from St. Patrick’s, graduated from Lawrence High in 1970. I was going to go to Harvard, but at the very last minute, I was accepted to Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado, thank God (laughter)…
In January 1981 I went into the insurance business and that’s what I’ve been doing. Since that day I’ve never taken a paycheck. 100% of the money that I’ve earned has been commission dollars. So, I know a little bit about running a business, making mistakes, fixing the mistakes, making the decisions that will hopefully, take you in the right direction.
My fear is that most of the people on Beacon Hill have never done that, (they) have never been in that situation. So, there are things that are going on in this state and as a businessman I say “Look, we’ve made a lot of mistakes, let’s not look back, let’s not try to lay blame.” In a business situation, you find out who made the mistake, you fire him or her, you wish them well and you move forward, you immediately move forward.
Take the situation in Lawrence, again, don’t lay blame on that… (they) made a mistake. It’s unfortunate that we may have to wait until January to fix that mistake and the thing that I see wrong on Beacon Hill is this; while Lawrence was literally burning, the Legislature bickered about casinos. How could casinos help Lawrence? Immediately help Lawrence? Immediately help the Merrimack Valley?
It’s not just a Lawrence problem, it’s a Merrimack Valley problem. Methuen has stood up and said “We’re not coming in anymore to help you fight fires.” North Andover is this close to telling you they are not coming in here to help you fight fires. The last time they were here, in May, it was a Saturday. The very next day, (councilor) Dan Rivera wrote a piece. He said that if Lawrence were allowed to change their health plan to the state plan, they would save between $400,000 to $500,000. Lawrence has just done that. As a businessman, I say, “What in God’s name took you so long to do something so simple?” It’s just common sense.
Audience Question: “Do you (Dave Torissi) have any regrets supporting Governor Patrick in 2006 and who are you supporting this year?
Torissi: I did not support Governor Patrick in 2006 and I am not endorsing anyone in this election either.
[Editor’s note: Torissi did, in fact support Governor Patrick in 2006 and three days after this debate, he was campaigning in North Andover and Lawrence with Governor Patrick]
Begley: First of all, I’ll be supporting Charlie Baker and as far as Governor Patrick, that’s a failed experiment.
Audience Question: The lady running for Treasurer, (Karyn Polito) made the comment about not taking a state pension if she’s elected. Where do you stand on the state pensions?
Begley: I don’t think that elected officials or appointees should be on a pension system, nor should they have lifetime health insurance. If you are asking me, personally, would I take that Karyn Polito pledge? I can’t answer you, because I don’t even know what the benefits are of this job. I didn’t get into this for the money. I’m fortunate enough to have a business that allowed me to take a few months totally away from work to go knocking on doors. So I can’t answer what I would do. I don’t even know what the salary is. I think it’s $61,000, that’s what Willie Lantigua was trying to take along with his mayoral paycheck. That’s all I really know about the (pay), I swear to God.
Torissi: Karyn Polito is a friend of mine, we served together for 10 years. Karyn, with all do respect, she’s been in the pension system for the last 10 years, so she just recently found religion on this issue. I am in the pension system. I’ve been in for 12 years now. I pay 11% of my salary into it that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. We actually pay into the system, we are not eligible for Social Security. So, I think the problems that are haunting the pensions right now are; some of the older people who are in the system have too long been paying 4-5% into the system and that’s what is causing the major structural imbalances. The people like myself that are paying 11% and actually, there are some teachers that pay 14% of their salary into the pension system, so those people are actually supporting themselves on that.
Audience Question: On that 11%, are they matching you on any of that?
Torissi: There is an appropriation from the state budget, yes, but like Social Security…
Audience: But how much are they matching?
Torissi: I don’t know what the exact number is, but (crowd laughing and heckling)
Audience: You’ve been in for 12 years and you don’t know?
Torissi: No, I don’t (crowd laughing and cat calling).. I don’t know, but I would like to just say that in Social Security, there is an employee match, like 6.25% and the employer pays the other 6.25%
Begley: I had a meeting about a month or so ago with Barbara Anderson in her home. My idea, (for) elected officials and any appointed personnel would be (to make them) 1099 contracted employees. Give the guy a check and tell him/her to ‘pay your taxes or don’t pay your taxes, set up a 401K for yourself or don’t set up a 401K for yourself. Do whatever you want with the money. You have no pension, you have no health insurance. Buy your own health insurance and see what these mandates inside these policies are doing to you. My wife and I spent almost $10,000 a year for 2 people to be insured. So, I think that everyone inside government should have to do what a small business owner does. Buy your own insurance.
Audience Question: Kevin, Can you tell us how you would have voted on the $35Mil bailout that your opponent (Dave Torissi) supported?
Begley: Tommy, I think I would have supported giving Lawrence the money, but I would have put them in receivership on day one. (applause)
Torissi: “I generally don’t answer questions for Tommy Duggan, because I have absolutely no respect for him at all and what he does and what he represents (boos and heckling). But I think I really want to answer this question because I listened to Jameson (Tomasek) talk and in my opinion, bad mouth the city about this quote-unquote loan bill.
You know, when we took that up, we were six weeks into a new administration and six weeks into a new council. So, what people wanted us to do was to say ‘Lawrence can’t take care of itself.’ The election we had last fall, which I know a lot of people were not happy with the mayoral results, that’s obvious. But, if you are telling me that we should just throw the results of that election out the window and bring the state in before they have the chance to get the job done? What happened to Democracy in this country, folks? We have elections for a reason and I know the person that ran from this neighborhood was supported by a lot of people in this room and, you know, I still consider Willie Lantigua a friend of mine, I consider Willie Lantigua a friend of mine, OK? I am not afraid to say that (Boos from crowd).
Well, I’m sorry. I’ve worked with these elected officials. Two of the people who won last year, a lot of respect, Dan Rivera and Eileen Bernall. I was going to give them a chance to make this right. Let me tell you something, they have done a good job. They balanced the budget for the first time in 3 years. So, people who just want to bring the state in, right off the bat, I mean, give the guy a chance. That’s what we did and I’ll tell you something, the same thing would have happened if David (Abdoo) would have won as well. So, thank you.”
[Editors note: The Department of Revenue certified all of Lawrence’s budgets as balanced with the exception of 2009. All three previous years’ budgets were balanced before Lantigua took office.]